A report that an active shooter was inside Joint Base Andrews turned out to be a false alarm, though the military base remained on lockdown for over an hour. The base, located just outside Washington D.C., is where the presidential Air Force One plane is stationed.
According to reports from the Associated Press, the report came from someone who made a distress call after seeing security personnel conducting a routine inspection Thursday. Further confusion was sown by a planned active shooter drill at the base that had not yet started at the time of the report. Officials stated in a Facebook post that there was no shooter and there was no threat to the base or the people in it.
Joint Base Andrews was placed on lockdown at around 9:00 a.m. At about an hour and a half later, the military base tweeted that the lockdown had been lifted, excluding the medical building where the active shooter was supposedly sighted at. In a later statement, authorities confirmed the absence of a gunman.
Col. Brad Hoagland, 11th Wing and base commander, said, “Fortunately, this was not a life-threatening situation. We take all threats seriously and reacted to ensure the security of those on the base.”
The military base is not only home to the presidential plane, but to the entire fleet, including the planes that have the call sign Air Force One when the president is on board. The president, vice president and other senior US government officials all fly in and out of Andrews.
President Barack Obama was at the base Wednesday, returning from a trip to Canada. Vice President Joe Biden was supposed to leave from the base on Thursday, but had to delay his trip because of the lockdown.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the situation was handled well in spite of the miscommunications that led to the false alarm. “I think we need to pay attention to how to minimize the chances of false alarms like that,” Carter said. “At the same time, I think it’s important to have a reasonable level of awareness of the possibility of this kind of event and what to do, and I thought the response was strong and solid.”
Chris Grollneck, a consultant on active shooter prevention who has trained at Army and Air Force bases, said the quick and efficient response to the threat at Andrews was well-planned and shows how much the military’s training for such situations has improved. He added that the person who reported the incident should be acknowledged for saying something regarding their suspicions, whether or not it was a real threat.